Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The XVI (Sixteenth) Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held in the year 2023. In this regard, we have started this synodal journey keeping our focus on three important concerns, i.e. Communion, Encounter and Participation. In order to remain in tune with the Synodal Theme, Our Archbishop-Patriarch chose ‘Follow Me’ as the Pastoral theme for this Pastoral Year (2022-23) and once again emphasised his deep concern and love towards the family life. While doing this, he has tried to highlight some concerns which were voiced during the Diocesan Pre-Synodal Meeting held at St. Joseph Vaz Spiritual Renewal Centre in Old Goa on 18th and 19th March this year. In his Pastoral Letter, our Archbishop has highlighted his concern towards families in relation to Participation and Mission. I will focus on ‘Participation in the Family’ in my presentation
PARTICIPATION IN THE FAMILY:
Jesus came into this world with a mission. In order to fulfil this mission He sought man’s participation and for this reason he chooses his first disciples. Be being with Jesus, the disciples receive formation and become participants in his mission of salvation. Those whom he chose had their own families and from there he called them to participate in his mission. Every Christian family is a ‘domestic Church’ (LG 11) and a ‘school of deeper humanity’ (FC 21). Considering this basic teaching of the Church, the participation of the family with regard to service of life, formation of the family and upholding the dignity of family members is stressed in the Pastoral Letter.
Participation: Service of Life: In the book of Genesis we read that in the beginning God created male and female unto his own image and likeness and gave them this command: ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’ They became close collaborators with God, the Creator, to bring to birth new life. During the holy Sacrament of Matrimony, the bridal couple offer their total self to each other as they exchange their vows and expresses their willingness and desire to participate in the divine will of God which is at the service of life. However, it is sad that today in some of our families there is not enough respect to life (SDS 59). In today’s world there are countless challenges before couples, resulting in multiple temptations to destroy life through abortion and by making use of means not approved by the Church. The human person has forgotten his God-given responsibility to participate in the work of creation and has become an obstacle to God’s mandate to be fruitful and to multiply. In such situations, it remains necessary that the spousal couples remain faithful to the teachings of the Church and becomes true witness by being at the service of life. They should remain united to fight against the culture of death and hedonism which is destroying many families.
Participation: Formation of the Family: To be at the service of life will become a priority when the spousal couple is open to the formation of the family. In our Archdiocese, our Diocesan Family Service Centre has undertaken diverse initiatives and is continuing to organize various programmes for the strengthening of the families. Some of the initiatives and programmes include Marriage Preparation Programme, Responsible Parenthood, Family Mission based on the teachings of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ which can be conducted in the Parishes during the Novenas as a meaningful and spiritual preparation for the Parish Feasts, Parish Family Service cells, Lenten Family Reflections, etc. The family members need to participate in such programmes for the genuine growth of their family life.
Participation: Upholding the Dignity of Family Members: The fruit of the genuine growth of the family life is upholding the dignity of family members. The fact that each family member is a loving and important person in the family cannot be undervalued. Unfortunately, in some families this is not happening. Our families have major concerns in modern times. Some of these include consumerism, greed and property disputes, violence with the family, excessive insistence on competitiveness which destroys the spirit of collaboration and participation (SDS 59). Due to the surge of worldly standards of living, the sacred fabric of our families has often become tainted. We have people with disabilities in our families, or members who are seniors, the homebound and the widows. How do we treat them? While we are on the synodal journey, we believe in journeying together considering that all are equal. Every person deserves respect and is to be treated with dignity. As we follow Christ keeping the focus on our synodal journey, let us uphold the dignity of each and every family members.
Each family is God’s gift and every member of the family is precious and important. We pray that every family may understand its mission to build a happy, healthy and holy family. The reading, reflecting and living the Word of God will bring this mission to fulfilment in our families. Thanks you and May God bless our families and each member of the family.